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Understanding Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a somewhat rare spinal condition that’s most often diagnosed during adolescence.

What is Scoliosis?


of women in the general population1.


of men in the 

general population1.

Idiopathic Scoliosis


means there is no known cause 

to explain why the spine develops 

a curve. It is the most common 

type of scoliosis, 

representing 80% of cases1.

Congenital Scoliosis


(present at birth) 

is caused by malformation of the 

spine during prenatal development. 

The spinal column develops during 

the third to sixth week in utero at 

the same time as several other 

major organ systems.


Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs in 

children with a neuromuscular 

disorder that impairs their ability 

to control the muscles that support 

their spine. Conditions associated 

with NMS include cerebral palsy, 

spina bifida, muscular 

dystrophies, and 

spinal cord injuries. 

Early onset


Early onset scoliosis (EOS) 

is diagnosed in patients younger 

than 10 years old1

Some EOS cases are 

idiopathic, which 

is called idiopathic 

early onset scoliosis.

Depending on the severity of a person's scoliosis, a doctor may recommend observation, bracing, or surgery.


If the spinal curve is mild (less than 25 degrees) and has low risk for progression, scoliosis may not require active treatment. The doctor will monitor the curve through regular check-ups to watch for progression.

Observation is also an appropriate treatment if a child is diagnosed with moderate scoliosis (25-to 40-degree curve) and has finished growing (typically age 17 for boys and age 15 for girls). At this point, a moderate curve is considered unlikely to progress or cause problems in adulthood2. Doctors often recommend follow-up x-rays every five years to confirm that the curve stays stable.


Bracing is an option for patients with mild to moderate spinal curves who are still growing. A back brace is a device customised to conform to a patient's body that keeps the spine in a straight, secure position. The goal of bracing is to keep the curve from progressing. Wearing a brace won’t correct the curve, but it may prevent the curve from getting worse as a person grows. Typically, a brace will be worn until a doctor has determined that a patient has finished growing.

Corrective Surgery

Severe scoliosis curves greater than 40 degrees may require corrective surgery. Spinal fusion realigns the curved vertebrae and fuses them together.

The two primary aims of scoliosis surgery are:

  1. To stop a curve from progressing
  2. To reduce rib prominence and to diminish spinal deformity

A surgeon may use one of two primary approaches: the posterior approach or the anterior approach. In some cases, a surgeon may use a combination of the two.

Anterior approach

The anterior approach means a surgeon will access the spinal column from the side of the chest wall, rather than through the back. Certain types of scoliosis curves are especially amenable to the anterior approach2.


Posterior approach

In a posterior approach operation, a surgeon accesses the spine through the patient’s back. The posterior approach is the most traditional approach to spinal surgery. Most scoliosis surgeries are performed this way2.

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The Find a Physician tool can help you find a scoliosis specialist near you:

Medtronic provides this listing as a service. We have no vested interest in any specific physicians, nor do we provide any recommendation, assurance,  or guarantee with respect to their service. This listing may not be a complete list of all physicians who provide this service. Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

1 Fadzan, M; Bettany-Saltikov, J. Etiological theories of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: past and present. 2017. Open Ortho journal. 11 pg 1466-1489

2 Wiggins G.C. et al. Pediatric spinal deformities. 2003. Neurosurg Focus 14 (1) Article 3.